Monday, April 9, 2018

An Argument for Voice Heralds

Even for those outside of the SCA, we all live with the echoes of the past surrounding us every day. Things of the here, the now, draw on things that came before them to meet the ever evolving roles our society calls for.  The emblems of offices of state, company logos, and official services such as the police and the fire service carry on the tradition that was at one time called heraldry. The technological marvels of the sewing and embroidery machines build upon the lessons and techniques learned over centuries by weavers, tailors and seamstresses across the globe. Modern weapons of war, including the bayonet and the helmet each have their lineage through bygone eras, including the “middle ages.” Marching techniques practiced by marching bands in high schools and colleges across the country draw on close order drills first developed in the early age of pike and spear formations.

As a former firefighter, security, and correctional officer, IT, and bachelors degree holder in Safety and loss prevention engineering, I am acutely aware of the vital importance of communication in the modern world. Not only are radio and mobile phone communications convenient at conventions and large activities, they are vital to the point where not having access to them on at least an official level is widely considered negligent. The ability to reach out for help, of course is vital, but also the ability to convey real-time information to large groups of people across a large site is vital to help assure a smooth day, weekend, or even multiple weeks of activity. This reality is understood in both official and unofficial capacities across the world. The federal Incident Command System has a dedicated communications officer built into its design. Large scale conventions, auctions, and trade shows incorporate PA systems, large signs, or even outdoor projectors to help direct hundreds, or even thousands of people. Whole industries currently exist to feed the technical hardware needs of communication at every level and capacity.

And it is not that the need to communicate is in any way, shape or form new. History is replete with thousands of incidents where the very shape of events would have been very different if one critical message made it at the right time, or had not made it at all. Some of the warfare’s greatest leaders were noted for their ability to command at distance, thanks in part to their schemes of communications. Reference materials abound to the ever increasing resources that generals, lords, and kings put into their communication efforts, be that signal flags, skilled horses, lanterns, or just loud people.

In the SCA today, event stewards across the known world assume the unique responsibility of running events in modern circumstances, with modern understandings  and sensibilities, but tackling those same hurdles with only traditional resources whenever practical. By whatever happenstance we want to call it, the title and role of voice herald has picked up the mantles that mundanely are handled by PA systems, scoreboards, and megaphones. We, as a society, have chosen to invest the extra effort into helping preserve the medieval ambiance by asking people and not technology to announce court, call the lysts, cry the site.

But we are not investing enough into it.

It has been my observation that this vital trade, whose role is positive and important without question, is increasingly being pushed aside, delayed, or ignored outright, treated  as a second-hand duty.

The benchmarks for this are stark in their display.

Were a modern Fire Engine’s radio to fail, the whole apparatus would be pulled from service until the equipment was fixed, or replaced (if only temporarily).

Yet repeatedly, coordinating heralds (also called Heralds in Charge) are left unnamed until weeks or even months after the event is announced and the steward named. In some cases, they are not even named until days before the event, if at all. This scheduling robs them of vital time to recruit help (both locally and regionally), coordinate, and plan.

Modern scoreboards at sporting events are tested and repaired weekly, and at times daily in order to assure that audiences have access to the information conveyed. These tools, though hardly glorious, are seen as vital to the event, and the technicians who maintain them are understood to be critical to success.

However, over the years far, far too many tournaments leave the name of the coordinating lyst herald undecided until days or even hours before the tournament. Many are so understaffed that fighters step in to cry the rounds. And yet, time and time again, interested parties are heard to ask at meetings where and when they can learn to lyst herald, and are only provided with vague directions of who might be some place the day of the event.  At the same time the most capable heralds on site aren’t even aware of the need, and otherwise obligated when help is called for at the last minute.

Modern PA systems, especially in schools and large buildings, are tested as part of the building’s emergency systems, and are now integrated into the automated alarms that help guide people to safety during a fire or other life threatening incident. Announcements at conventions can bolster activity attendance, calm rowdy crowds, and even preempt disaster before an emergency response is needed.

As a veteran site herald in the kingdom, and five time site herald for Gulf Wars, it has been to my horror to hear people, peers, leaders, and decision makers openly advocate for the dissolution of site heraldry at the the second largest event in the SCA. Attitudes both hostile towards, and dismissive of site heraldry as a concept existed, and still persist at interkingdom, kingdom, regional, and local levels. And even when the need for announcements are recognized, again the roll is often times haphazardly tossed off towards a single person, late enough in the process to rob them of vital planning and recruiting time. Untrained, unprepared, and often times tired people volunteer to walk long distances and shout loud statements without even basic training in projection or phrasing. Messages are garbled, people are further tired out, and volunteers learn that site heraldry is a chore that has to be done, rather than a have the chance to see it as a functional, vital part of an event’s communications.

If we are to draw any lessons from our modern experience, it is that the roll of communications is not something to be piecemealed haphazardly.

A single event, even a small one, has basic heraldic requirements that can be calculated. A site herald is needed for announcements, lyst heraldry services for the tournaments, and perhaps someone to add some flair to the evening feast by announcing the courses. And of course a herald for any courts. With tight scheduling, this could all be done by one or two people, at least with a small event. If you were to make it a larger event, with a larger tournament,  and rapier and chivalric at the same time, that will require one herald for each tournament, and if there are enough fighters, you will need relief heralds to keep from exhausting someone.  Larger still, and the tournaments could go to multiple fields, and the need for two heralds could double, or even triple. Mooneschadowe’s Triumph, and Namron protectorate are just two examples of events large enough to typically run four fields at a time. If you need to do mid-day announcements, then you have to have someone, or multiple someones, depending on how big site is, to do site heraldry as all of your lyst heralds are obligated. Come time for feast, there is a good chance that most of the heralds will be tired, some may even opt to sleep through feast, it's not unheard of. It's not even remotely unrealistic to suggest that another herald still would be employed for that role. Court, even for a small event, will need a court herald, and that is a skill set that is more often than not separate from those previously mentioned. A larger court could need two heralds, or even three if there is a long list of items to be attended to. If there is a royal presence, while the crowns will very likely bring their own herald, that herald will almost assuredly be coordinating with the local heralds.

If you factor all of that together, and consider the demands of a typical baronial level championship, that could mean as many as ten different heralds coordinating their time and efforts towards making the event run that much better. Every day that we take away from them to plan in advance is an obstacle that we willfully place between us and optimal success.

Most of these people, who have a specialized skill set, or are still learning that skill set, also have other interests. When we leave the details of heraldry to be figured out hours or even minutes before the event in question, we compel heralds and prospective heralds to either give up heraldry, or turn their back on other obligations that were already planned.

Every hurdle left in place is a disrespect to the veteran heralds who want to give of their time, and a discouragement to new and aspiring heralds who are chasing their personal dreams in the SCA though heraldry.

The responsibilities of voice heraldry should be spelled out in writing and clearly delegated out at the same time the remaining balance of event deputy stewards are named.

In the event these are unified under a single “herald in charge”, that person should be engaged and made knowledgeable of his responsibilities at the same time as the feast steward, or the gate steward or any other of the principle deputies.

If those roles are delegated out to others, (ex. lyst heraldry falling under the lyst mistress, site heraldry under the autocrat, feast heraldry under the feast steward, and Court heraldry left the sitting noble,) than those others need to even more vitally have written directions about these added duties, and if they themselves are not knowledgeable in the heraldic arts, they should be encouraged to name an appropriate deputy with all due speed.

But one thing that must be clear in this; there is no reason the staffing of heraldic duties should not be as thorough or planned for as a signup sheet to work gate, or serve tables, or clean the privies would be, and each of those lists clearly denotes the overall authority responsible for the job at hand.

And from a purely functional standpoint, heraldry, beyond being an art, a historical discipline, and an important part of the medieval era we work to recreate, is absolutely needed. Someone has to announce the paring at the lysts, someone has to call court, and someone has to do even the most rudimentary of site heralding at most events. Not to mention the need to convey information to attendees if something drastic changes.

There is already a group of people who have these skills, who want to use them, and who what to do the job well. For them, the dream is expressed a heraldry in a way no less vibrant than a fighter’s armor or an artisan’s creation.  But they, like any other aspect of an event, need the ability to plan accordingly, and in advance.

When we take away time from our heralds, we take away their ability to prepare, to teach, to learn, and to succeed. That directly affects, and reflects on the quality of the event, and our character as event stewards and deputies. There truly is no way around that point.

When we wait until the last minute to talk about heralds, we are telling them they aren’t important, and that their Dream is not important, and that their contributions do not matter. While at the same time scrambling to find someone to do the job when it comes up.

We owe our heralds better than that.

We owe our events better than that.

We own ourselves better than that.

His Lordship Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King!"

Friday, April 6, 2018

Might and Magic PT 3 (Gulf Wars 27)

So, the situation that Thursday beggs the administrative question, what do you do when you are arguably the best ceremonial herald on site, but you are thrown into almost literal chaos while trying to perform a quick presentation before a foreign crown?

If you’re Alexander Ravenscroft, the answer is “you improvise”, which was just about all we could do, standing on the edge of the champion's battle. Not that the battle was going yet. Not by a long shot. You see, all of the principle kings, and the allies had arrived at a meeting the night before and talked at length about the format of the Champion’s battle. Reportedly, they had departed with agreement on how things were going to take place.

So of course, the dozen or so assembled crowns who were there that morning showed up with what looked to be twenty or more different and conflicting ideas between them. There were three or four roving clusters of kings (and entourage) wandering this way and that on the battlefield in front of the castle, talking constantly at (not necessarily with) each other. While this was going on, most of the queens that I could see were sitting in their thrones, (also with entourage) watching these goings on with some unknown measure of either amusement or annoyance, I could only guess much poast that. The scene would have been more entertaining for me if there weren’t also well over two hundred others swarming around, mostly fighters, but also extended entourage, consorts, spouses and friends as well, and all waiting for some final word as to how the battle was going to take place, and when it was going to happen.

Somewhere in this, Master Alexander and I were going to make a quick, but public presentation where he formally took me as a protege. I don’t think either of us really wanted to compare notes about how bemused we respectively were at the confusion of the situation, but nonetheless we did have a mission to complete, such as it was.

At some point in this, he turned, and handed the rolled up yellow leather belt that was to be mine over to his former protege, master Mathias. “Hold this,” he said to the recently minted Pelican, and then ran off on his own mission the same type of purposeful steps I have come to expect from him.

I had known Mathias only slightly less time than I had known his now wife, Mara Palmer. The latter I had met at Gulf Wars 23, the former a year later under separate circumstances. Goofy to the core, but good spirited and hard working, he had found ourselves shoulder to shoulder one night as a makeshift set of would-be heroes tacking a small emergency. During one of the lulls as we were triaging our (deliberately ambiguous) situation, I looked over at him and said “Oh, by the way, I’m Ivo. hi.”
“Mathias” he said by way of reply. And thus, as was very much the common theme at Gulf wars for me, a friendship was formed.

Now, two years later, we had another commonbond to share.

After arriving on site late Wednesday afternoon, he had tracked me down only after finding his wife and greeting her.

As it happened, he related to me that he was one of the first of a string of calls Alexander had made before make his offer to me. Ever the diplomat, and hardly ignorant of interpersonal politics, Alexander had checked in with each member of his household and his one currently active former student to ask each of their reactions to the idea of offering me a yellow belt and by default, inviting me into the household of his friends.

For as long as I live, I’ll never forget Mathiases words when he related his answer for me.

“That’s an great idea. In fact, if you don’t offer it to him, I will!”

I had rocked back on my heels at that note. Later that night when talking with Alexander, he had confirmed the narrative word for word, and while there was open humor in the statement, the good feelings didn’t mask the fact that both men were deathly serious as well. I had gone from nobody’s student, to two friends and pelicans both willing to offer me a belt on the spot if need be.

Now, a day later, Mathias was not going to let the joke rest. As soon as Alexander had his back turned, he flipped out the yellow leather belt and jumped forward, pulling the belt across my midsection. “Here quick, before Alexander claims you!”

We both broke out laughing at the jest. “Lord, you are an ass, you know that?” I asked him between laughs.

“Always,” he confirmed in kind.

I paused my laugher for a moment. “And thanks for having that much confidence in me. It means a lot, from either one of you, let alone both.”

The other man’s laugh transitioned to a sincere smile then, and he nodded. “Always.”

Alexander returned a short while later, the same purpose in his stride. “Okay, lets do this.” he said, clearly decided that there was no better time like the present.

The first item of business was the blessing of the crown. Alexander was taking a student across kingdom lines, questions of loyalties and respects had to be answered first. He knelt before Her Majesty Ansteorra, (conicidently the same queen who had presided over the KWH&SS that I had first met Alexander at), and asked permission. Gwen, who knew he on site, smiled with dignified excitement at the idea and gladly gave her blessing to the whole arrangement. It was about as close to being ordained as the thing was going to get in the SCA.

The ceremony itself was quick, and straightforward. After a last minute dash to by a few to collected people who were both interested and available (which for the middle of the day was unfortunately not many), Alexander began in earnest while the Kings were still running around (literally) negotiating how the champion’s battle was going to run.

The first step was a announcement to the general attendees, Alexander stating simply (and loudly) that he was going to take a protege, and an audience was welcomed.

Some ten minutes later, he called to all assembled and then returned into the royal presence of HRM Ansteorra. He spoke eloquently, but briefly about the bond between people, and that bond across kingdom lines. Then, he rose, walked over and unrolled the yellow belt he had purchased for me.

A moment later it was pulled around my waste and bucked.

And with that, the deed was done. I was now officially protege to Master Alexander Ravenscroft of Meredies.

Her Majesty concluded the whole thing by stepping over and adding her blessings to the event, congratulating me, and wishing me the best of fortunes going forward.

Interestingly, I could conclude this narrative with a recounting of the congratulations, or the well wishes, or the fun talks that followed. And be assured, there were a lot of each and every one, some of them breathtaking in their words.

But perhaps the most fitting end to this story is  a smaller story of its own.

It started the next morning, Friday, as dawn broke. Nature had traded its biting cold for a warming humidity that more than hinted at rain. By the time I was done with my shower, the grey skies had fully rolled in and the rain had started.

I was making my way to the Five Points, the drizzle now a steady downpour, when I ran into Master Donnavin making his way in the other direction, heralding a delay to the morning’s rapier activities. I intercepted him, told him I would finish the announcement, and then urged him to find shelter, his garb was not as weather suited as mine was just then.

As I rounded out my impromptu and wet announcement, I crossed into Last Bastion and made my way over to their kitchen tent and repeated what would be the last herald of the moment. As it turned and walked away, intent to now make it to the Five points and information point, someone called after me.

“My lord!” I looked back to see  a woman jumping out from under the cover of the tent and running up behind me. “What is your name, and who is your pelican?”

The question gave me pause. While I had been asked perhaps a dozen times at gulf what my name was, in that moment, I had forgotten completely about the yellow belt on my waist just then, as well as most of the previous day. Tired, and purpose driven, my real only concern was getting my job done.

“I am His Lordship Ivo Blackhawk, out of Ansteorra. And my Pelican is Master Alexander Ravenscroft from Meredies.”

“Excellent!” the women proclaimed. “We know master Alexander! And thank you for your work here.”

And with that she ran back to cover to escape the rain.

The whole thing gave me pause, not for any ill, or good reason, but the understanding that this was, or at least might be, a new metric in my SCA career was something that I needed to process.

As we collected for the friday morning announcements. Two men walked into information point, one a chapparone, of sorts, and the other a fighter, young, healthy, eager, with an interesting story of why he was there. It seemed he wished to be a knight, and ergo sought a red belt. A knight of his kingdom had agreed, but only if he had completed a list of tasks, the last of which was he had to learn how to voice herald, and today was the last day for him to complete the trail.

Years ago, long before any of this, I had been approached by a newly made Fyrdman from Calontir who had been tasked by his countrymen to collect knowledge from each kingdom present at way. By some random chance, I had been the Ansteorra he had selected. In that encounter I had realized, only afterwards, that I was one of those steps in that man’s personal adventure, I was a page in his story.

Here, in much the say way, we were the same for this man. And while he may never remember our names or faces, in this moment it was my duty to make sure what he did recall was beneficial, and positive.

I welcomed him wholeheartedly, encouraged him, and the explained what we would be doing. I assigned him to Mathias, and sent them both to merchant’s row. Like the tired, but determined soldiers we were by then, all of us ventured out into the rain.

Hours later, the last of us, young and old, the now hardened core of the Gulf War Site heralds, as well as a few new and enthusiastic recruits from the week, gathered for the last regular cry of the week. This time, I took King’s highway, and this time, like many times before over the years, the rain was a steady downpour.

I made my way down, mostly ignoring the rain where I had to, and ducking under shelter where I could. I was not loud, but rather option to save what was left of my voice by walking up to clusters of people where I could. As I made the turn to loop back towards Calontir, I ducked under a pavilion.

On the other side, a man in black, traditional Japanese jacket, a white belt tied around his waist. And at his side, the young fighter from the morning, a red belt tied around his waist. Before I gave the announcements, I offered congratulations to the newly made squire, and a reassuring word to the Knight. “According to my volunteers, your squire here acquitted himself well. He’s welcome on any site or listfield I’m heralding.”

“That’s good to hear. Thanks for telling us,” The knight said.

“Glad to,” I replied. Then I rattled off the announcements in short, now well practiced order.

As I turned to leave, I considered then that the young man, who’s name still to this day escapes me, was stepping into the first part of what could very well be a grand adventure. And by some bit of chance, I was fortunate enough to be a page in that story.

But then it also occured to me; These people were also part of my story. These random figures, encountered by chance, were pages in my life’s narrative.

And it was up to me to make sure my story was worthy of the people in it, be they great, or small in their part.

I stepped out from under the pavilion that afternoon now more fully aware of not only the yellow belt on my hips, but so much more of what it signified.

I stepped out into the rain that afternoon, onto the turning, putted, muddy road.

It was going to be a wet, ugly, turing walk, I knew.

But I also knew in my heart of hearts, that I was going to enjoy every step of it.

The end
Part 2 (previous)

His Lordship Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King!"

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Might and Magic PT 2 (Gulf Wars 27)

“Ivo, there is something that I have noticed that Ansteorra hasn’t done, so I’m going to do it. Would you be interested is becoming my protege?”

Me and Alexander talking
[note: not a photo of the actual conversation]
I literally staggered back from the words that I had just heard. Not once in my planning for the trip had I even contemplated this type of situation. All at once, a million thoughts rushed in on me, memories and recollections, fears and aspirations.

“My God,” I remember saying, “you’re serious.” Even as I said those words, I knew they were redundant with Ravenscroft.

“Of course,” he said with his typical, business-as-usual grin.

There was as much babbling on my part as coherent conversation over the next few minutes, I was completely unprepared to even think about such things. I think the most productive part of the conversation that followed what Alexander’s assurance that he didn't need an answer just then, I was free to think about it. We parted company then, both agreeing to revisit the topic in twenty four hours where and when we could talk about it in more details and in better circumstances. I was still hungry, and I knew that at Gulf, Alexander always has another appointment to head to.

Despite my hunger, I walked past the main camp pavilion and ducked behind a tent so that I could text my wife, who was coincidentally attending our local SCA meeting just then back in Mooneschadowe. A minute later I was on the phone with her, still stunned beyond any reasonable thought just then, recounting what Alexander had said to me. Lillias almost squealed with joy on the other end of the line, excited at the prospect.

Bit it wasn’t a done deal by any means. The ramifications of a foreign Pelican taking a protege from Ansteorra were not as straightforward as a simple yes or no question. Also, there was the question as to is I wanted to go down that road again, the path was not a simple one for me. In the past, I had been both cold and at times hostile towards the peerage as a concept, and concurrent with this, several of my own kingdom’s peers had effectively painted a bull’s eye on my back and acted accordingly. Actions ranged from the passive-aggressive to overt bullying, handing back my first protege’s belt seemed to be just about the only thing that brought a end to the mess.

And, above all of that, saying yes, to Alexander or anyone, would represent a radical change in my own life’s path, both in the Society, and to an extent outside of it. For all that the last five years have taught me, and the overwhelming majority of it was good, positive things, to be sure, it also left me cold and jaded about the idea of advancement within Ansteorra. Some things were my own doing, choices (Mistakes and otherwise) with consequences I had to live with. And others were the overt product of people who’s unapologetic dislike (or even hatred) of me had left its mark. To say yes here would be to change the balance I had come to live with on all of that, and likely lead to me eventually having to reengage with some, if not many of those people once more.

This was not going to be any sort of an easy decision.

The first people I told following the call with my wife were Ainier and Liadan who had retreated into the shelter of the text to relax before the the evening set it. Both of them cheered at the news. Liadan was acutely familiar with the ins and out of protegeship, having taken a yellow belt from Sir Burk several years before. As I ventured back to the main camp pavilion and served dinner for myself, I sat down at the one of one of the long tables and enjoyed the chance to rest. In something of an off-key chorus, a few people asked me how my day had been. One of the askers was Derega Tote, longtime friend, one time resident of Mooneschadowe, and fellow archer.

With my mouth full of pasta, I thought about how to phrase my answer as I chewed. Should I keep the conversation to myself until there is a final decision, or should I tell the people close to me and see what their reactions were?

“Master Alexander Ravenscroft, the war herald for this year,” I said calmly, “just offered me a protege belt.”

Eyes across the tent went wide at that news. “Did you accept?” Derega asked.

I shrugged. “Not yet. I’m still thinking on it. Its a lot to think on.”

“Well, congratulations on the offer then.”

And that was the theme across the dinnertime hour; friends, acquaintances, casual conversations were all met with the same response. The honor, and magnitude of the offer alone was not lost on any.  That, coupled with the words of Alexander himself were what first helped me start to get perspective on the whole thing.

It was sometime after dinner when the pieces started to right themselves in my head, letting me put thoughts in some sort of order. One time before, I had donned a yellow belt, and that was after a long conversation with a good friend I spent a lot of time with. In truth, I had first broached the subject. Years, and so much work later, I had just more or less just accepted that I would probably never have that path open to me again. The idea that someone, let alone a foreigner, would see more potential in me that I did when I looked in the mirror now was earth shattering in its magnitude.

Frankly, it left me reevaluating a lot about myself as the evening turned into nighttime.

Exiting the main tent, I ran into Derega again, and as we often do, we started talking. Much of our friendship over the years was built on our vastly different perspectives on most topics, and our ability to typically both argue effectively, and consider the other party’s points. This give and take, back and forth had allowed us to be sounding boards and counterbalances to each other over the years. Walking together, we made our way back towards Five points, and then down towards Scribes point, talking the whole time, both about Alexander’s offer and about a dozen other things.

Scribes point was actually relatively lively when we arrived, many of the illuminators and calligraphers seemed to tend towards being night owls during the war. Inside the tent, there was a unique suspension of ranks and titles. There, were were simply two different categories, artists, and friends.

A time later, and with Derega still at my side, we made our way back towards the camps, and as we passed the five points, I suggested we look in on the green Dragon and see what was playing there that night. The Dragon was packed when we got there, and she and I huddled in a corner, I taking an unoccupied high-backed chair, and she absconded with a small stool and we sat and listed for a while to the music as two bard performed from the second story balcony. It was late by then, and after a time, Derega retired for the night. I stayed, but the room was getting a little too crowded for my tastes. I made my way towards the front exit, and found myself looking at the brazier under the gazebo next to the tavern. A circle of people were talking softly across the fire, one of whom I recognized as Mistress Marion (sp?), the same women who, four years before has ushered me up to the Dragon’s balcony for my now famous first herald on site. I walked over, and was warmly welcomed to the circle, greetings being exchanged by all.

I sat and listed as the other talked for a while, and one of the topics that come up was the origins of the green dragon. The founders envisioned it as a public house, a place of neutral ground where people from all kingdoms could come and socialize. A “public house”, of sorts, that would by its very nature invite people of all measures and motivations to come and make merry in good company with one another.

Towards the end of this, Marion put in “I can’t decide what to do next with this, however. I want to do a shine so some sort. Every village in Europe has a shire to this saint or that, but I have no idea what I would name it.”

I chewed on that for a moment, my mind turning at the academic challenge. Then, an idea came to me. I put my hand up meekly. “I might have a suggestion, my lady.” Marion, for her part, eagerly welcomed me to make a suggestion.

I told all assembled my story of the late Mistress Talanna Dustana the Violet, her mentoring, friendship, and work as a teacher. I talked about my offer to help her register her name and arms, and her decision to take me up on that offer over a year later. I started to get choked up when I got to the part about the stroke taking her from us the same weekend I was going to consult with her about a problem registering her name. And then of course, the college of heralds of Ansteorra got together and made a special submission letter just for her name and devices, that way, at least, we could get her arms registered, even if we only had a holding name. And then, of course, the final but small miracle of the whole saga was the fact that someone, somewhere managed to actually register her name as submitted, no changed required.

“Anyway,” I said by way of conclusion. “When that was all done, I was able to message her husband and tell him that we had done it, we had registered the name and heraldry we wanted to do. So, if you were looking for a name, maybe something like Saint Violet?”

Everyone at the circle was teary eyed by then, I had not fully appreciated the magnitude of my tale, even I was sporting a pair of leaky faucets by then.

Marion then suddenly clapper her hands together with a start. “I have it!” he then looked right at me. “I know what I should do!” Eyes all tracked to her with this. “I’m going to build a shrine with a  box on it that is open on one end and with hooks on the inside. That way people can hang up the names of people. A memorial for those no longer with us.”

The idea met with instant approval from everyone there, even I nodded at the perfection of it. Then, to my surprise, she walked around to me, leaned over and gave me a hug. “You give me the name of your friend, Ivo,” she said into my ear. “and I’ll make sure she’s the first one up next year. I promise it.”

“God bless you, mistress. God bless you, and I most certainly will.”


There is a power to inspiration, and that is perhaps the more poorly kept secret in the human experience. The ability to encourage others to rise up above themselves, even if only for a moment’s time, is both finite, and unpredictable. But it also is not one way. In each thing that we do for others, the same can be visited back upon us.

Something almost supranational had coalesced in my mind that evening, a product of the whole experience, from Ravenscroft’s offer, to the conversation with Derega, to visiting with my friends at Scribes point, to the talk around the fire next to the Green Dragon. For the first time in four years, I felt bathed in the magic of the society. Not since the “Tale of Four Coins” had a seen an event that way. It was a good feeling, but at the same time a bit overwhelming.

Bathed in emotions that I couldn't name, and tired beyond any good reason, I made my way back to camp late that night, glad for the chance to sleep once more.

Wednesday morning was the icy cold wake up I really could have done without. It was painfully cold to wake up and climb out from under the layered covers that morning. Force of will alone carried me to a miserable but necessary shower in the shower house at the end of Queen’s highway.

The morning and afternoon heralds that day were a little more sparse than I would have prefered, with my having to assign two routes to some people in order to maintain coverage. Of the whole site. In terms of warm bodies, we had enough people, but the skills were not there, with interested by untrained volunteers showing up. On the morning runs, I went down Queen’s highway, and the afternoon I went up towards the archery fields. By the end of it, my back was killing me and my right ankle had been twisted not once, not twice, but three three times.

The interim, however served a critical purpose for me. I went back to scribes point, specifically seeking the counsel of two close friends. Adela Scrijver van Brugge, OL and Landed baroness from Atlantia carried with her the credentials to offer valid, and valued council on the subject of protegeship. And Mistress Mara Palmer OL, and wife of Master Mathais, newly made OP and former Protege to Alexander had both the credentials of the rank, and the personal experience with Alexander to offer he own valuable and important insights on the issue. It was, as I recall, a enlightening Forty minutes worth of conversation just between them, and that’s not counting the added input of people like  Lady Vastilia and Lady Finnguala, among others.

So informed, and more or less on the verge of overthinking things, I was satisfied that I was in as good a position to speak again with Master Alexander as I ever would be.

The final lead up to the conversation was “midnight madness” the big sales event on merchants’ row Wednesday during the war. The name is not to far off, not quite Black Friday (which I have mundanely worked security for a few times), it is nonetheless an energizing experience as people flock to the vendors and see what deals are out that night.

As it happened, I ran into Lady Rosma, her lord, Oberon, and Oberon’s sister while I was out and about before meeting up with Alexander.  I traveled with them between merchants and laughed and talked with them as they moved this way and that. I hadn’t before met Oberon’s sister, but I’d known Oberon himself for about two years now, and his quirky, but pragmatic sense of humor was always a welcome perspective to things. Rosma, as it happened, was one of the most unique heralds on site as part of the handful of newly misted sign (or silent) heralds in the society. She was, and would be our only sigher for the duration of the war, and was a continuous fixture on Merchant’s row when the cries went out. Fun loving, kind hearted, forward thinking, and an occasional (but subtle) flirt, she and Oberon were proving to be a perfect pairing for each other of late, and their shared humor and good spirits were particularly contagious that night. 

After a while, including a dinner stop at the food vendors, I met up with Alexander yet again, this time hear the west entrance to Merchants row. He guided me to the show of the wife of Taran The Wayward, friends of us both, and fellow Meredian’s to Alexander. Ducking behind their canvas walled shop, we sat down in the relative quiet back there and sat in camp chairs as we talked in more detail about the challenges that his proposal would present to both of us.

“I honestly thought I had planned for everything when I set out to come here, Alexander. I even had a plan in case I needed bail money.”

“Bail money,” Alexander blurted out. “Really?”

“Well, the plan consisted of calling my mother and crying, but still, at least I thought that far ahead.” We both laughed at that. “Still, not in my wildest dreams had I thought I would ce contemplating this. Not without anyone, let alone yourself.”

And there were challenges to be addressed, let there be no question about that. How would a man who lived 400 miles away from me advocate for me in an Ansteorra pelican’s circle? How would we correspond, communicate, teach and learn over that same distance? What feedback would he be looking for and needing from me? And how could he get the information I could not provide?  Its not there there were not answers, or that the answers were even few, but the distance between vague ideas and solid plans needed to be ironed out before I agreed to any of this.

For his part, Alexander was upbeat about the whole thing, and was optimistic of his end goal. I still feel that he might now understand Ansteorrans as well as he thinks, but all told that would be a small thing to learn compared to what I will have to master in the years to come.

One thing I have prided myself in though the course of my life is the ability to act decisively. Right or wrong, I am inclined to act rather than stand immobile in the face of a decision. Sure, I can wait and think things through, and the decision to do that in itself can be decisive. But after a while, I’ve trained myself to ask “am I waiting for a reason, or am I just putting myself in a ‘holding pattern’ out of habit?” Even though Alexander was perfectly willing to let me wait even longer to make my decision, and even though I had had plenty of people offer critical and accurate statements of the whole idea, I was also persuaded that despite these hurdles, or perhaps become of the, Alexander’s idea had enough merit to try, even if for no other reason than to fail and learn from that failure. But I knew, then and there, that anything I needed to really know to make that decision was already in front of me.

With one last qualifier thrown in, I gave my answer.

“So long as we agree to revisit this agreement in one year’s time, I’m willing to become your protege, Alexander.”

And with that, the adventure was begun.

                           To be continued...

                         Part 1 | Part 3

His Lordship Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King!"